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Becoming an SQP

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If you're already familiar with the system of becoming an SQP and are just looking for a particular form, you can now find them all in one place on our forms page.

An SQP is an animal medicine advisor, known by the legally defined term "Suitably Qualified Person". An SQP must pass a set of exams to demonstrate animal health knowledge and an understanding of the legal system, and be registered with AMTRA. Once qualified, SQPs are allowed to prescribe and/or supply certain medicines (those classified POM-VPS and NFA-VPS) for farm animals, horses, and pets.

See also our page on "What is an SQP?"

SQPs may only supply veterinary medicines for which they are qualified from registered premises - that is, a Veterinary Practice Premises (VPP) registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS); a retail pharmacy registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) or the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI); or premises approved as SQP Retailers’ premises by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) .

Please note that if you are setting up a new SQP Retailers’ premises, you must apply directly to the VMD’s Inspections & Investigations Team (IIT - previously the Animal Medicines Inspectorate) with the appropriate payment. This does not happen automatically once you've passed your SQP exam. The premises must be inspected and approved before veterinary medicines can be obtained and supplied. The VMD aims to process applications within 10 working days and conduct the approval inspection within 30 days of the application being processed.

The process in summary

The standard process of becoming an SQP requires a significant commitment in terms of learning, but it is simple administratively provided you understand the distinct stages:

1. Enrol with AMTRA
Send us an enrolment form with the fee. We'll send you a training manual for you to study. If you wish, you can also book on a course run by one of the colleges. If you book a course with one of the colleges, you must still enrol directly with AMTRA.

2. Book an exam
Send us the exam booking form, and then sit the exam - good luck! If you book a course with one of the colleges, you must still book the exam directly with AMTRA.

3. Wait for your results
Your results can take up to 8 weeks after the exam. If you pass the necessary modules and the viva (oral exam) you will become an SQP, with the obligations and duties that entails.

That's it!
The process in its essentials is simple, but please read the details. The full content is on this page for ease of access - you might want to print it out. But as only part of this is relevant to you at each stage, you can just access the individual sections from the "Becoming an SQP" menu, above.

Alternative route via the Veterinary Pharmacy Education Programme

Those working in pharmacies in particular may want to consider the benefits of the Veterinary Pharmacy Education Programme. In collaboration with Harper Adams University, the programme now comprises certificates in companion animal and equine healthcare and large animal healthcare, University College and Postgraduate Diplomas and a Masters in Veterinary Pharmacy with training that will lead to the award of SQP status by AMTRA. Admission is open to both pharmacists and non pharmacists.

See the Harper Adams Veterinary Pharmacy website for more details.

The standard process in more detail...

1. Enrol with AMTRA

Once you've read the material on this website and are sure you want to become an SQP, send AMTRA a completed enrolment form with the appropriate fee: payment for enrolment is subject to our standard terms and conditions.

You should select which type of SQP you wish to become:

SQP
Type
Permissible
Medicines
Enrolment Fee until 31/12/2014 Enrolment Fee from 1/1/12015
R-SQP All VPS Medicines £350 £345
G-SQP VPS - farm animals & equines £330 £325
K-SQP VPS - farm & companion animals £330 £325
E-SQP VPS - equines & companion animals £290 £285
L-SQP VPS - farm animals only £310 £305
J-SQP VPS - equines only £270 £265
C-SQP VPS - companion animals only £270 £265
Avian SQP enrolments:      
A-SQP VPS - avian only £270 £265
CA-SQP VPS - companion animals and avian £290 £285
JA-SQP VPS - equine and avian £290 £285
EA-SQP VPS - companion, equine and avian £310 £305

Since qualified Veterinary Nurses already have been assessed on some of the relevant material in this qualification they can be given credit for this and just have to be assessed on the "new" material and the working understanding of their other knowledge checked - on the enrolment form they should select the Veterinary Nurse option and fee. More information for Veterinary Nurses...

Non-qualified nurses and receptionists can also become SQPs but they will have to enrol as a new student at the full fee, not using the veterinary nurse rate.

The enrolment fee includes:

  • the examination fee (provided the exam is taken within 24 months of enrolment) - including the fee paid to the exam centre and the fee paid to Harper Adams for providing the exam and marking it.
  • the AMTRA assessment fee (including the oral examination)
  • the price of the training material
  • the Harper Adams assessment/credit rating/quality control fee
  • a NOAH Compendium containing data sheets of those medicines which qualified SQPs can prescribe
  • inclusion on the AMTRA SQP Register for the remainder of the calendar year of the examination
  • access to AMTRA services and to Continuing Professional Development

It will be necessary to sit the exam within 24 months of enrolment otherwise AMTRA will charge a supplementary fee.

Receive from AMTRA a printed home-study manual

We will send by courier a printed manual for you to study with the appropriate modules depending on which species groups you have selected at enrolment.

You will also, separately, receive from Harper Adams University details of how to access an online version of the training manual, including your individual password. If you lose this or have difficulties accessing the online system, please contact Harper Adams: Telephone: +44 (0)1952 815008, email: animalswd@harper-adams.ac.uk

Home study from the printed manual and the online system may be supplemented in some cases by training provided by your employer.

As an optional supplement, book directly with a training venue a taught course

To supplement the printed training manual, most students find it highly advantageous to undertake a taught course provided by a specialist educational centre or trainer and a list of these courses is available on the AMTRA website.

It is up to you whether to attend a course: the training centre will charge a fee for this. Courses should be booked directly with the training centre.

Those taking the farm animal module are also required to do a assignment (see next section for more): AMTRA recommends that you start the assignment before attending a course.

2. Book an exam

You must book the exam directly with AMTRA, regardless of where you are planning to take the exam (or whether you've separately booked a training course). A list of forthcoming exam dates is available on the AMTRA website.

The exam must be taken within 24 months of enrolling with AMTRA (otherwise AMTRA will charge a supplementary fee). You must have enrolled first before booking your exam.

Exams must be booked an absolute minimum of two weeks before the exam take place - and some exams fill up well in advance. (To be precise, an exam booking form must be received by the AMTRA office by 1pm on the day two weeks before a set of exams, or if that day is a public holiday then by 1pm on the working day that precedes that day. If the set of exams at a centre runs over two days, then the deadline is two weeks prior to the first of the two days, even if the candidate is only being examined on the second day.)

Please note that all exams are subject to minimum numbers: we regret that occasionally it may be necessary to cancel an exam if insufficient people book for a particular date.

The examination fee is included in your original enrolment fee.

AMTRA Examinations will be related to the modular nature of the course structure. Candidates will be examined separately in:

The Base Module (examination up to 2 hours)
The Farm Animal Module (examination up to 1.5 hours for 1st and 3rd attempts, or 2 hours for 2nd and 4th attempts)
The Equine Module (examination up to 1 hour)
The Companion Animal Module (examination up to 1 hour)
The Avian Module (examination up to 1 hour)


Please note: while most of the exam centres are suitable for access by wheelchair and others with mobility difficulties, not all are. If this may cause problems for you, please contact us to seek advice before booking your exam.

Candidates will be provided with a copy of the Compendium in the exam room. That Compendium includes a copy of the SQP Code of Practice and Veterinary Medicines Guidance Note 3. Exam questions in the Base module are written so that they take account of the fact that the Compendium including the Code of Practice will be available in the exam room. Candidates should be familiar with how to use the Compendium and the contents of the Code of Practice and should be able to use and interpret its contents.

Exam withdrawal/cancellation fees

You must tell AMTRA at least 4 weeks in advance if you wish to withdraw from an exam, otherwise a fee will be charged. These are currently:
  • £50 fee if a candidate cancels (including failing to show for the exam) after the two-week booking deadline, or
  • £30 fee if a candidate cancels between 4 and 2 weeks prior to the exam.
During the first six months of 2014, about 17% of SQP exam candidates withdrew from exams at short notice (within four weeks of the exam), or simply failed to turn up. This imposes significant administrative burdens on AMTRA and Harper Adams, and where exams fill up means that candidates are turned away and also sometimes reduces the viability of courses run by colleges.
 
AMTRA is also concerned at the number of last-minute substitutions made by companies, where one candidate is withdrawn from an exam and another added. While each case will be done for good reasons, we are worried that the overall trend is likely to lead to candidates being given inadequate time to prepare for the exams.
 
Note that cancellation/withdrawal includes substituting one individual for another within the same company.
 
Although the fee is a cancellation/withdrawal fee, it is payable upon re-booking for a fresh exam.
 
Exceptional circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis but these should be exceptional – for instance, candidates should allow for traffic delays. Applications for consideration of exceptional circumstances should be made in writing to the AMTRA Secretary General.
 
These fees will be introduced for all exams from 1 January 2015 (regardless of when the enrolment or exam booking took place). At the same time, enrolment fees are being reduced by £5 with a view to making the net financial effect of these changes zero.


Separate sittings & booking re-sits

Note that if you choose to take your initial exam modules (i.e. those for which you initially enrol) spread over more than one date, there is an additional fee of £95 for each additional exam sitting: this is because government subsidy via HEFCE doesn't help with the second sitting; the fee also covers administrative costs and paying an exam centre for your place twice. In this case, please use the Individual modules Exam Form for second and subsequent sittings and send the fee with the form.

If you are booking a re-sit, please also use the Individual modules Exam Form and send the fee with the form. (See also the full note on re-sits under "Exam results & what happens next".)

Viva (oral exam)

After the written examination, candidates are assessed for their professional competence as SQPs, which is undertaken by an AMTRA Assessor appointed for that purpose in a one-to-one 10-15 minute oral ("viva") examination. The purpose of the assessment is to establish that the candidate has competence in knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the legal and professional responsibilities of SQPs, of the relevant parts of the Veterinary Medicines Regulations and the Code of Practice or of other germane legal and professional requirements.

All SQPs must succeed in the base module, an oral and at least one species module.

Note: to count towards the SQP qualification, the viva must be passed not more than 24 months before the written exams, so if written exams are passed a long time after the viva (for instance after re-sits), then AMTRA will require a fresh viva (at the normal re-sit cost) before considering the candidate for registration as an SQP.

Farm animal module

Those taking the farm animal module are also required to do a assignment (project): this needs to be submitted at least two weeks prior to the exam date and so you should select an exam date with that in mind. (To be precise, the project [both the physical copies and the electronic copy] must be received by the Harper Adams office by 5pm on the day two weeks before a set of exams, or if that day is a public holiday then by 5pm on the working day that precedes that day. If the set of exams at a centre runs over two days, then the deadline is two weeks prior to the first of the two days, even if the candidate is only being examined on the second day.)

If the first attempt at the farm animal module did not result in a pass, then see also the note on re-sits under "Exam results & what happens next".

Additional guidance

3. Exam Results and What Happens Next

Your results

It can take up to 8 weeks for you to receive your exam results - please be patient. Your exam papers have first to be marked, and in some cases second-marked, then referred to a Board meeting of Harper Adams University for them to be formally adopted. These meetings normally take place monthly. After the Board meeting, the results need to be signed off internally within Harper Adams, and then provided to AMTRA.

AMTRA and Harper Adams will write to you separately. AMTRA will advise you which modules you've passed, and whether you've passed the viva (oral exam), and thus whether you have become an SQP and if so which type. Harper Adams will write to you separately with your precise exam results in each module. Although AMTRA and Harper Adams normally try to coordinate our communications, occasionally there may be a short gap. Please do not contact either Harper or AMTRA seeking any “missing” communication until a week after you’ve received the results from one of us.

To be on the AMTRA SQP Register, you must have passed:

  • the Base module, and
  • at least one species module (i.e. farm animal, equine, companion animal or avian), and
  • the viva (oral exam) - the viva must have been passed within 24 months of the relevant written exams

Alternatively you must have passed the Veterinary Nurse conversion exam which is equivalent to passing the Base and Companion Animal modules, together with the viva.

If you failed one or more species module, but still satisfy the three points above, you will still be an SQP, but with a more restrictive classification. For instance, if you tried to become an all-species SQP (R-SQP) but only passed the base and farm animal modules, you will be an L-SQP, able to prescribe and supply for farm animals but not equines or companion animals.

Re-sits

If you failed some or all modules of the exam, or need to retake the viva (oral exam) you may re-sit those a limited number of times on payment of the appropriate re-sit fee. It should be noted that the re-sit fees for modules are higher than the equivalent fees included in the initial enrolment fee because funding from the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) which subsidised the original fee is only applicable to an individual once.

You can re-sit modules at any of the exam centres (see exams and courses), even if the module itself is not being offered for the first time (so you could do an equine re-sit even if the exam was primarily for base and companion animal modules).

You may have a total of three attempts at each module, and exceptionally permission for a fourth attempt may be granted. Note that AMTRA will normally consider four attempts the maximum allowed.

Note that the farm animal module is a little different when it comes to re-sits:

  • 2nd attempt (first re-sit) is formally called a "reassessment", and doesn't involve the farm animal project but instead a pre-seen case study and therefore an exam which is 2 hours rather than 1&frac12 hours

  • 3rd attempt is formally called a "restudy", and is back to the 1&frac12-hour format exam with the farm animal project again - you may resubmit the same project if you wish, or may amend it prior to resubmission

  • 4th attempt (if permission is granted for a 4th attempt) is formally called a "reassessment with restudy", and is the same format as the 2nd attempt.

Upgrades - adding extra modules

If your initial enrolment with AMTRA was for anything other than an R-SQP (i.e. an all-species SQP), you may subsequently decide to add one or more of the other species modules to your qualification. (Note that this is more expensive than enrolling for all the modules at the start.)

More on upgrades

Premises registration

SQPs may only supply veterinary medicines for which they are qualified from registered premises. If you are setting up a new SQP Retailers’ premises, you must apply directly to the VMD’s Inspections & Investigations Team (previously the Animal Medicines Inspectorate) with the appropriate payment.

More on premises registration

Continuing as an SQP including CPD and annual fees

The AMTRA register fee for the calendar year in which you first qualify is free. (Unfortunately, that means if you qualify later in the year, you get slightly less benefit from that.)

In order to continue as an SQP, you must ensure AMTRA is paid the annual renewal fee each year. The renewal fee is due by 30 November in the preceding year: a late payment fee is due on payments received by the end of March, otherwise a higher reinstatement fee is also payable.

Some employers manage the payment of the annual fee on your behalf - but do check with your employer to make sure that this is the case, as it’s your responsibility to ensure the fee is paid to AMTRA.

You must act in accordance with the Veterinary Medicines Regulations and the Code of Practice issued under them by the Secretary of State. If the Code changes, AMTRA will provide an updated copy to all SQPs.

You must keep yourself up to date, including undertaking at least the minimum prescribed amount of Continuous Professional Development.

Keep AMTRA updated

Even though most SQPs are supported by their employers, your qualification is personal to you, and AMTRA will write to you at your home address and/or your email address.

Please remember that when you signed your enrolment form, you acknowledged the importance of keeping AMTRA advised of any change in personal details (such as name change) or if you move house or change email address - please do not expect your employer to do this for you. You can login to the AMTRA website and update your contact details at any time.

This page last updated 17/12/2014